Every NFL season there are a handful of unpredictable scenarios that we deemed nearly impossible at the start of September. However, like clockwork, we still manage to spend the first two months in complete shock as it unfolds. So if you don’t believe what the teams have shown so far, you better get along quickly before your bankroll pays the price.
Remember how “bad” the Tennessee Titans were last season? Yet despite poor parameters and numerous injuries, Mike Vrabel continued to find ways to win games. Nonetheless, we relentlessly dismissed them as imposters as they finished as the AFC’s No. 1 seed above the Chiefs and Bills. In the long run, the skepticism proved true as Tennessee faltered immediately in its first postseason game. But the Titans also finished 6-2 ATS as underdogs, eating chunks of their doubters’ bankroll throughout the regular season.
Sure, surprise teams like the Giants, Seahawks and Vikings aren’t as good as they look in the standings, but that doesn’t mean we should blindly eliminate them against bad teams. That brings us to one of the first games I targeted in Week 9: Seattle returns to the underdog role as it travels to Arizona.
I’m old enough to remember when the market told me the Jaguars were three points better than the Giants. We get a similar situation here, as the surprise Seahawks deserve more credit against a last-place divisional foe. DeAndre Hopkins is giving the Arizona offense new gear, but the Cardinals’ problems this season run deeper than just one player. Last week’s 34-26 loss to Minnesota was the second straight week Arizona allowed 34 points. Geno Smith is PFF’s second highest ranked passer and has strong support in the running game from Kenneth Walker III. Only the lowly Detroit Lions get worse coverage than the Cardinals, so I’m confident Smith will be able to connect consistently in high-leverage situations to keep the chains moving. Seattle ranks just outside the top five in the offensive DVOA and probably has the most effective offense in this game despite the return of Arizona’s greatest point guard.
Hopkins let the league know he was back with a one-handed touchdown catch against Minnesota, but Arizona’s offense still struggled in some key areas. For example, they were just 4 of 11 on third downs, and their 34% conversion rate still ranks among the worst in the league. In my opinion, we’re too excited about Arizona’s offense moving the ball against a defense that’s clearly in the bottom half of the league. Even so, if we isolate Week 8, Kyler Murray’s offense ranked only 17th in the league in EPA per game. Hopkins is an elite talent, but I wonder if he’ll be enough to save Arizona’s season.
Some teams find ways to win and some teams find ways to lose. I often feel like when Cardinals are discussed, it’s always in the context of why they should have won but didn’t. They nearly covered against the Vikings, but three turnovers and 10 penalties left them with another loss and a slew of excuses. He’s a pattern with this team, making him a solid fade in any close, competitive game like this.
I didn’t think Seattle would win five games this season, but I have to base my bet on who they are right now. I watch the Seahawks learn to win, finish games and gain confidence every week. The Cardinals are 1-3 at home and are just 3-6 ATS as a home favorite since last year. They lost five of those games instantly. I’m going to take another shot with the Seahawks and bet they’ll be down for another week.
Statistics provided by pff, rbsdm, football outsiders, teamrankings.com.
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